This month is traditionally a time for reflection and assessment so we thought it would be a good idea to look at golf 2012 for those events which were both newsworthy and sure to have long term effects on our game.
Here is our list and our reasoning – numbers 10 to 6, feel free to comment whether you agree or disagree. The next column will countdown numbers 5 to 1.
Number 10: Steranka leaves PGA
As PGA of America chief executive, Joe Steranka was a most able leader of the nation’s 27,000 club professionals. Throughout his tenure he stressed education programs for his members and initiatives to grow participation in the game such as Golf 2.0, We Are Golf and Play Golf America. Besides he is a good guy and his seven years in the PGA’s top job reflected his qualities as a man.
Notice though, nothing has been said about “retiring” since at the tender age of 53 Steranka will undoubtedly move on to something of interest.
Number 9: A “Feel Good” Story – Els wins Open Championship
At 43 Ernie Els is not an old man, especially in golfing terms, however his Open Championship win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes did make a resounding statement.
He won wielding a non-standard length putter which of course provided fuel for the chattering class. More importantly the victory proved the “Big Easy” is still capable of playing at the highest level after a time of what could only be called ‘mediocre golf.’ Fans around the world welcomed this rejuvenation of a world class Hall of Fame golfer.
Number 8: European Team Retains Ryder Cup
Davis Love III’s Ryder Cup team was a strong mix of veterans and players new to international team competition and it appeared the outcome going into Sunday’s singles matches would be a blowout victory. However Team USA was thumped the final day by Jose Maria Olazabal’s Euros leaving them in possession of Samuel Ryder’s cup. The circumstances were eerily similar to the American comeback in 1999 when Ben Crenshaw’s team, down 10-6 Saturday night, and in spite of really ugly shirts were dominant on Sunday for the win.
Another European Team victory reiterates an obvious fact; the best players are not necessarily Americans. In fact six of the top ten in World Rankings are non-Americans and America can boast barely half of the first 25 ranked players.
The Ryder Cup loss (or should you be Eurocentric – the win) points out our game at the top level is international which has ramifications for every aspect of the game from professional to amateur and especially to the business of golf.
Number 7: Bubba magic
During the playoff this year, battling Louis Oosthuizen for the Masters, Bubba Watson hit a shot that instantly went on the “Did you see that?” list. With everything on the line, the pro from Bagdad (Florida) crafted a hooked 150-yard wedge shot out of and over trees from a pine straw lie that came to rest 10 feet from the pin. Two putts later he had the title.
Ironically Bubba’s spectacular shot has pushed aside in our memories another spectacular shot…the hole out for double eagle earlier in the day by none other than Oosthuizen. Amazing.
Number 6: Three wins – no majors
Three wins in 2012 made a season of which any player might be proud. But we’re not talking about just any player but Tiger Woods who has said many times – play well and the wins will come and the majors are what really counts.
At the late youth age of 37 (early middle age?) in December with 14 majors still has time to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 and Woods is in enviable physical condition with a strong mental game…or is it?
Formerly he could win, sometimes even majors, with his “B” game but now his errant shots are more frequent and putts that previously dove into the hole are lipping out. So, 2012 was a season to be proud of but not a Tiger Woods’ season. With strong, young competition from Rory, Webb, Bubba, Keegan and their like, Tiger’s list of majors is unlikely to grow quickly if at all.
The problem however is U.S. golf and indeed worldwide golf need a healthy, winning Tiger Woods so if Tiger is turning into just another player there are implications for the growth and sustainability of the game.